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Billings City Council approves capital spending plan, minus parks district

Plan is to vote on parks funding in a week
120919 Parks and Rec Funding Request.JPG
Posted at 11:29 PM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 01:36:04-05

BILLINGS — The Billings City Council Monday approved a majority of its capital improvement plan to spend $423 million over the next five years and elected to review the Park District 1 budget at a meeting next week.

The plan is a list of 120 construction projects in each city department, and what year the city expects to spend the money to build them.

The decision to approve the plan was halted over one of the three proposed increases to Park District 1's portion of the budget plan. If implemented, all three increases would raise Park District 1's budget from $2 million to $3.7 million in 2025.

Council members disagreed on a proposal to spend $400,000 in 2021 to "catch up" Park District 1's finances. City staff said the district hasn't been reassessed for tax collection purposes since 2012.

The current $2 million has lost purchasing power due to inflation, city officials said. The additional $400,000 would allow the district's finances to more accurately reflect its worth.

"This would recoup the lost purchasing power after not increasing the Parks District 1 assessment since its inception in 2012," said city accountant Jennifer Duray.

The other proposed increases to the Park District 1 budget plan included an annual inflation adjustment, and the phasing in of funding for park development. Mayor Bill Cole said he heard general council support for these two increases.

120919 Parks and Rec Funding Request.JPG
Billings city staff PowerPoint slide detailing proposed rate increases to Park District 1. Slide presented at Billings City Council meeting on Dec. 9.

The council eventually adopted the Billings capital improvement plan, minus the Park District 1 portion. Ward 4 representative Penny Ronning was the only "no" vote.

According to the draft capital improvement plan, Billings is expected to spend about $120 million on construction projects in 2021.

One big ticket project in 2021 is the plan to spend $7.5 million on to expand the Billings Logan International Airport.

Another project slated for 2021 is the renovation of Billings City Hall, expected to cost around $40 million. The city hall project also relates to Billings' $5.5 million public safety budget shortfall. Council members mentioned how a portion of the money for city hall is expected to come from a yet-to-be-drafted public safety mill levy.

Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski said the capital improvement plan is a like a proposed budget. It is not a document that sets any future city spending in stone. Individual projects still have to be approved and added to the 2021 budget before any money is spent.